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Monday, November 09, 2009

Why Was Hasan In the Army?

It's becoming more and more evident that Major Hasan, the man responsible for the Fort Hood shooting last week was a known muslim extremist. The question then becomes why was he still in the military?

The question is two fold. First, why didn't he, if he was so convinced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were so wrong; resign his commission. He obviously had some courage in convictions to kill all those folks, but not enough conviction to resign his commission (and paycheck) as a protest.

The second is why didn't the military do something to get rid of him. That's actually pretty easy, it's called the press. Without every duck in a row, had the military tried to remove him from the service all he had to do was hire a decent lawyer and start a media battle.

Let me give you an example. The military life insurance (SGLI) has a suicide clause in it that says you receive no insurance money for suicide. Yet in 21 years in the military I saw quite a large number of them due to some of the jobs I had. In every case the family was paid the full amount of the insurance. When I asked the Captain I worked for why he said the cost of fighting the legal battle over the money was much more than just paying the insurance. A destitute wife and three kids will always win over the law infront of a jury, plus the bad publicity cost in recruiting.

In Hasan's case we have a lot of apologists in America for Muslim extremists who would be more than happy to rally around a guy getting tossed from the military for his religious beliefs. What we lack is moderate Muslims with the courage of their convictions to stand up and say "That guy is a whack job and should be tossed from the military".

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Friday, November 06, 2009

No Hope or Change for Unemployed

So the Labor Department just released the unemployment numbers. The rate is now up to 10.2%, it's highest in more than a quarter century.

Back in 2003 and early 2004, moving towards the election season, we were bombarded with blasts at then President George W. about his "jobless recovery" and the 6 percent unemployment rate.

So how will the left spin their recovery that isn't just jobless, but actually shedding jobs? Remember the good old days, when Nancy Pelosi would blast Bush on jobs creation, complaining when only 80 or 90,000 jobs were created in a month? What will she say to President Obama who's touting other news that says we are in a recovery, when 190,000 jobs were lost!

Does anyone remember this graph, that was used to justify the 'stimulus' package earlier this year.

According to the Chart, unemployment should be about around 7.8% since we passed the stimulus. Instead, the number is literally off the top of the chart.

The flip side to unemployment is that our productivity numbers had their biggest jump in nearly a decade. It's normal to see productivity going up before jobs are added, but not at a 9% pace. In fact, it's up enough that people should really be worried about why the jobs aren't showing up.

Why aren't they? Fear in the business sector is the easiest answer. There is currently tons of new regulation on business waiting to be passed in Congress. Business' won't expand until they have a better feel on where things like health care reform and cap and trade are headed.

Here's an example. Say you employ 95 people, and your productivity for them is up 9.5% last quarter. You probably have enough work to add between 5 and 10 new workers. But if the House version of health care reform passes, that would put you at the magic 100 number. Now in 2010 your taxes or benefits package costs will increase greatly, you aren't a "small business" anymore.

So do you hire the workers you need, and hope that you increase profits enough to cover the expenses of not only the workers, but the new health care bill, or do you hold off and see what happens in DC?

If you have 100 workers right now, and know that the House is getting ready for a ramrod vote on Saturday, do you keep what you've got, or get rid of a few folks to get back under the onerous 100?

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

This Is Not A Referendum!

Do as the MSM and White House are doing, and say to yourself over and over "the election results in Virginia and New Jersey are not a referendum on Barack Obama or the Democrats". Just keep saying it, at some point you'll believe it, they do.

The truth is Barack Obama & Company spent a lot of time in New Jersey trying to save John Corzine from his record. Tim Kaine, the head of the DNC is the outgoing governor of Virginia, and the GOP took his seat, and a few others in the state. The NY Times and Washington Post will undoubtedly repeat the party line that these aren't referendums on the Democrats, they are.

The party line is that the "Obama coalition" didn't show up to vote in those elections. The young, and people of color chose to stay home, even though Obama showed up five times in New Jersey to beg to come out and vote and make a difference. That is somewhat of a referendum on President Obama's staying power. He's not as new and cool as he was last year.

Add to that fact that the ballots were pretty much stuffed with white guys who are career politicians, and you have a recipe for not getting out the youth vote, or the minority vote. This is something that the Democrats will have to keep in mind for the 2010 mid-term elections.

New York's 23rd Congressional District did go to the Democrats. I'm not sure that is a true indicator of anything though, since the "GOP" candidate dropped out Saturday and endorsed the Democratic candidate, leaving Doug Hoffman of the Conservative Party out on his own. The State GOP can blame themselves for that loss, though. They put up a candidate as a Republican who's farther left than many Democrats, and wonder why she didn't poll well and couldn't raise money.

Another interesting tidbit, Maine it was thought, would be one of the first states to pass a Gay Marriage ballot referendum, and instead it wend down. This didn't surprise me. Maine has an independent streak as a state, but generally runs a little bit to the right. They elect moderate republicans to the Senate all the time. So the idea that this didn't fly up there shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, except the folks that thought the 2008 elections mean the entire country shifted to the left.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Is it Much Ado About Nothing?

The AP has a story out today asking if the uproar over the "Public Option" in the current health care reform bills is much ado about nothing. If you read only the public option portion of the bill, you'd probably have a hard time disagreeing with that assessment.

The reason they give for believing it's a lot of hot air over a little thing is the CBO estimates of the number of people who will opt for the public insurance program. The CBO says only about two percent of the population would take the public option. In the current House bill you can't get into the public option if you are covered by a plan through your job. To be eligible you'd have to work for a small enough company that the rest of the bill doesn't compel it provide coverage, or already be buying insurance on your own.

I think the CBO has done a good job in point out costs associated with all of the health care legislation, but as always, they do it with static numbers. They assume that no individuals or businesses will change their habits based on the new law. That's where the problem lies with their current estimate. I also understand that it would be nearly impossible for the CBO to run dynamic computer models on behavior in the short amount of time Congress gives them to review legislation. I often wonder if that isn't by Congressional design.

History has already shown in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey that the guaranteed issuance and group rating methods drive private insurance companies out of the markets after raising costs to the point they can't be profitable. Both the House and Senate bills contain each of these provisions in them, and I doubt that history will suddenly undo itself, and they'll work without raising costs.

The result will be (as it has been already) that as costs go up insurance companies will drop out of the exchange program, and choices will dwindle to a few not-for profit companies and the public option. Don't think so, go online and try and get a health insurance quote in Maine. There are about 5 companies left doing business there.

Another cost driver in the bill, which seems innocuous at first, is the rescission rules. We all get to hear the breathless stories on the news of the woman who had her insurance dropped right before she started treatment for cancer. "Oh those heartless insurance companies!" the anchor will opine. What the news doesn't tell you is that for every one person who is wrongfully dropped about two hundred and fifty are rightfully dropped for fraudulently obtaining insurance.

The House fix for this is to compel insurance companies to pay for care for anyone they want to drop until a mediator has decided if it's a case of fraud where the person should be dropped. That sounds fair enough, if you are the patient. However, if you are the insurance company, you now get legal bills and medical bills for the 99% of people you can legally drop for fraudulently obtaining insurance. How much of that money does anyone think will be recouped from the fraudster? Who do you think will make it up to the insurance company? Congress isn't going to pay them for it, which means the folks who are legit will get higher premiums to pay for both the care, and legal bills of someone else.

I also think this is going to end up one of the bigger legal entanglements of the bill. Guaranteed issuance says you can't be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, and community ratings say you can't be charged more because of it, but the proposed law also says if you don't reveal it you have obtained insurance fraudulently. I'm pretty sure this will end up in court about as fast as any other provision in the bill.

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